When I was about six years old, at Christmas time a very large, rectangular-shaped object covered with a blanket appeared in our living room near where the gifts were kept. My brother and I were intrigued, wondering who could be getting such a large gift.
I swear I did not peek under the blanket and instead asked my mom curiously and innocently, “Who is the big present for?” She said it was just something that Santa was going to pick up when he arrived. The answer made no sense. When did Santa pick up a present rather than drop it off? But my six-year-old question was pacified, and I accepted her response. I still didn’t look under the blanket.
Christmas Eve came. We dressed up in our Christmas best and impatiently fidgeted our way through the evening mass, dreaming of the gifts we would open when we got back home. Our tradition was to open gifts on Christmas Eve. Santa cooperated with our tradition and managed to get ahead of schedule to make a guest appearance at our house in Omaha, Nebraska, long before everyone else got their presents.
Santa did, in fact, arrive with presents, which we opened with the careless abandon of excited tiny humans who had waited an entire year for this day. Santa left, picking up only his usual bottle of whiskey, which I guess warmed him for the rest of the evening’s deliveries. (I was well into adulthood before I learned that Santa was played by a family friend who was rewarded with a large bottle of Jack Daniels.) I paused from playing with the rest of the gifts to say that Santa had forgotten to take the other “gift” that was hidden under the blanket.
My mom then said, “No, that present is for you.” I’m sure my jaw dropped and blue eyes opened wide as I padded my way in bare feet and flannel nightgown toward the large present in the corner. The blanket was finally pulled away, revealing a three-story, handmade wood Barbie house made by my great uncle, who loved woodworking. He made these doll houses for all the girls and toy barns for all the boys in the family.
That Barbie house was pure magic. I played with it for too many years in the basement of our house. Even recalling this memory as I write makes the corners of my lips turn upward, my eyes sparkle and warm tingles shimmer through my muscles.
That smiling, warm, tingling sensation — a typical reaction to getting an unexpected and wonderful gift — is what prompts a spirit of gratitude. Not every one of those moments can top the unexpected doll house in the corner, but we experience them in various ways and sizes throughout our lives. Maybe we even have some small form of them nearly every day, especially if we pay attention.
That’s why in November I’m inviting you to tune in to moments that spark gratitude. Small or large, there are unexpected gifts of grace, peace, hope, joy and love bestowed on us every day. Join me in the discussion on social media. If you comment on a post or share it with others, you’ll be entered to win a special prize each week. (I promise it will not be a large wooden doll house.)
More to be grateful for: I’m hosting six opportunities for you to recharge your batteries during the hectic holiday season:
- Nov. 26, 1-3 p.m. EST – Breathing, Not Buying: Alternative Black Friday Restorative Yoga/Meditation
- Sundays Nov. 28-Dec. 19, 7:30-8:30 p.m. EST – Sparking Hope: Mindful Advent Yoga Series (donation class!)
- Dec. 31, 1-3 p.m. EST – Starting with Hope: New Years Eve Restorative Yoga/Meditation
Register for all these practices on my events page.